Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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I had heard of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It’s one of those books that has been on the top of “to read” lists since it came out in early 2012. Now that I have read it, I know why.

At the center of Wonder is a boy, August or Auggie Pullman, with a severe facial distortion. Since he has been in and out of surgery for his entire life, he had never been able to attend school. Now that he is 10, his surgeries have lessened, and it is time for him to try a mainstream school with his peers. But although Wonder puts Auggie in the center of the story, it is really a story about kindness, acceptance, and overcoming bullying. 

Auggie is a truly likeable main character. He recognizes his ugliness and strives to come to terms with it. He jokes, he reads books, plays video games, and loves Star Wars. It is a typical childhood, except for his disfigured face.

I loved seeing his perspective on his situation. Going to school for the first time at age 10 would not be easy, but with his parent’s support and that of the school leaders, he began his new adventure. My favorite part of the novel, however, was seeing the other sides of the story, for subsequent sections were narrated by his friend, his sister, and others. Everyone has reasons for their choices, and in this type of book (a book about bullying) it is important to recognize how everyone has a different perspective.

This book has difficult issues, and yet it is pretty straight forward. Everyone should choose kindness. It is not easy sometimes, especially when we are afraid of someone or something. But kindness is the way to go. I love that emphasis.

Wonder is not a perfect book. I could not stand the high school boy’s section, which had no capitalization and few punctuation marks. And I am not certain that the happy ending is realistic of what really would have happened in a mainstream school for a real child in a situation similar to Auggie’s. But I am delighted that middle school kids are reading books like this. I hope it gets them thinking so that the next time someone “different” shows up they can find in themselves the same compassion they read about.

Wonder is a book I’m eager to share with my son. Maybe in a year or two. He’s almost ready for it: I am sure seeing different perspectives helps kids at this age, and I am excited to see how Auggie’s story might help him deal with difficult situations he may face.


Reviewed on December 18, 2014

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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